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The Coming Tsunami in Educational Technology

CACM Blog, July 23

At the CRA's 40th Anniversary Conference, Stanford president John L. Hennessy discussed the far-reaching changes that are occurring in the world of higher education. Just as technology disrupted and transformed the newspaper and music industries, it is now poised to wreak havoc upon higher education. Students are increasingly bored with lecture hall-type classes and are ready for online education. At the same time, we are witnessing the emergence of massive open online courses at universities such as MIT and Stanford. The fact that educational technology will disrupt higher education is undeniable. How quickly it will transform higher education is unclear, but educational technology could drive down college's operating costs and improve students' education.

Stanford's Hennessy noted there are two big problems in terms of cost and performance in higher education. One problem is the poor performance of many students, with nearly half of all college students in the U.S. never graduating. Also, companies commonly complain that too many graduates lack the necessary job skills. Another problem is that the cost of a college education has become a burden to many students and their families. Hennessy believes that colleges should embrace online education to overcome these problems. By offering online classes, colleges will be able to produce more revenue. They can enlarge or enhance their mission with online classes and overcome the restrictions imposed by their physical location. Finally, they will be able to increase the availability of a high-quality education to students, especially international ones.

The transition from the lecture hall to online classes involves a number of challenges, many of which involve hard problems. These include but are not limited to: conducting experiments with online education and seeing what works and what doesn't work; using experts to measure the success and failure of learning in online education; effectively grading the homework and tests of hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of students in a timely manner; preventing students from cheating and identifying incidences of online cheating; and determining what type of credentials should be developed and awarded to students. At the end of his keynote, Hennessy described Stanford's primary goals with educational technology, such as improving the overall educational experience and reducing the cost of education for non-Stanford students.Click Here to View Full Article

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